By Frank Brady
The Senior Hurling clash between Limerick and Kilkenny at Gaelic Park on Sunday was the most competitive game of the day, with Limerick weathering a later storm to hold on by two points.
The opening quarter was tit for tat as both sides hurled furiously and fluently in an effort to assert their will on the game. Colm Moriarity put Limerick on the board, but Vinnie Norton replied with two for the Cats. Conor McCaffrey quickly brought the proceedings back to parity. Then a trio of quick points, one from Mike Stretch and two from Pat Maroney saw Limerick open a gap. However, the Limerick bench breathed a sigh of relief as Finbar Flood’s miscued catch was scrambled to safety. Then a well-placed ball from Mason enabled Anthony Power to slot over a point and the gap was further closed by a John McCaughron score a minute later.
Damian Mason tied up the score after Paul O’Reilly was penalized for over carry. Then in a 10-minute spell, Limerick rattled off a series of six unanswered points from Colm Moriarity, Dave Simms, Pat Maroney, Conor McCaffrey and Mike Stretch to give them what looked like a comfortable and commanding lead. However, late points from Damian Mason and Vinnie Norton still left Limerick leading by 11 points to 7 at the break.
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Kilkenny began the second half with a much greater sense of purpose as they set about reducing the deficit. Two points from Damian Mason turned this into a nail-biting contest. In seesaw fashion Dave Simms and Vinnie Norton exchanged points before Mason pointed to leave the minimum between the sides. Then Norton with a Herculean effort, tied the game up. Then Anthony Power put the Cats in front but Niall Shanahan quickly replied to level up again. Unfortunately, Power did not see much more of the action as he was rushed to hospital with a serious-looking head injury.
Limerick jumped back in front courtesy of an inspirational point from Paul O’Reilly after a rather acrobatic pickup. Dave Simms extended the lead after being well placed by Brendan Cagney to hammer home a goal. Two minutes later, Simms returned the favor as he laid on a well-placed ball for Cagney, the unorthodox and back-saving pick-up maneuver failed to produce the desired result and the game should have been on ice. Simms added another point to put Limerick back to the comfort zone and a 5-point lead. Kilkenny came right back and a speculative shot from side Aidan Cotter ended up in the net to leave two points between them. A late last effort from Vinnie Norton drifted wide as the buzzer sound.
Limerick were deserving of their win as they dominated for more sustained periods than their opponents.
Man of the Match: Vinnie Norton (Kilkenny) and Tadgh O’Callaghan (Limerick).
Limerick: Finbar Flood, Niall Driver, Niall Shanahan (0-1), Tadgh O’Callaghan, Paul O’Reilly (0-1), Niall Barron, Mike Barron, Pat Maroney (0-3), Mike Stretch (0-2), Colm Moriarity (0-2), John Loftus, Dave Simms (1-4), Connor McCaffrey (0-2).
Kilkenny: Michael Collins, John Doyle, Noel McGovern, Brendan Ryan, Dan Kinney, Richie Hogan, Darren Doherty, Vinnie Norton (0-5), Anthony Power (0-2), Gary Quinlan, Kevin Corbett, Damian Mason (0-5), John McCaughron (0-1). Subs: Aidan Cotter (1-0), Jerome Edge, Mark Kennedy.